Minister: Water war no longer a possibility in Turkey’s region



Having sorted out water-related problems with neighbors to a great extent in past few years, Turkey expects no clash over water sources in its region.
Contrary to the arguments of some international analysts that a war over water resources will inevitably erupt in the Middle East, Turkey sees no such possibility in the light of recent developments, the Environment and Forestry Minister Veysel Ero?lu said in a discussion with Today’s Zaman.
Turkey has for many years faced water-related problems with its neighbors. The Iraqi and Syrian governments have in the past criticized Turkey for failing to release sufficient water from its dams. Turkey’s construction of dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers was the major point of discussion at the time. However, a policy of zero problems with neighbors has culminated in strong cooperation between the three countries for the past few years. Recent agreements between Turkey and its two southern neighbors discredit the thesis of a clash over water, argues Ero?lu, who spoke to Today’s Zaman following the recent opening of five new dams in the southeastern province of ?anl?urfa.

The joint construction of a dam on the Asi River, which flows from Syria to Turkey, which recently began is the latest example of such developments. Recalling that state officials from Syria and Iraq were invited to see developments at Atatürk Dam in the first place in 2006, Ero?lu said Turkey, Iraq and Syria have agreed to cooperate to sort out water-related problems among the three, while avoiding “third parties’ intervention.” The minister said the Turkish government has recently signed dozens of cooperation deals in many fields with Iraq and Syria, a clear sign of improving relations with these countries.

Ero?lu noted that some Western governments tried to mislead Arab countries in the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Syria, arguing that although it has vast sources Turkey does not release water to the region. “The leaders of countries like Syria have for many years believed that Turkey did not share its water sources with other countries in the region. Some countries in the region even provided support to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK] in return for what, they believed or were made to believe, Turkey had done.”

Ero?lu argues that, thanks to recent rapprochement between Turkey and the Arab world, people in the region “no longer fall for some groundless stories told by some Western governments.”  Making mention of the United Nations Forestry Forum, the last one of which was held between Jan. 24 and Feb. 4 in New York, the minister said the UN has accepted Turkey’s earlier proposal to hold the next forum in ?stanbul. The city is going to host the forum, the first time it will be held elsewhere other than New York.

“The amount of monetary aid that Turkey provided for different planting and watering projects around the world equals $1 billion. … Many countries are aware of Turkey’s efforts aimed at forestation, erosion control and fighting forest fires … while many have offered to cooperate and share experiences with Turkey to this end.” He recalled that over 1 million trees would be planted in ?stanbul as part of a program in parallel to a project launched in New York, which aimed at planting 1 million trees by 2017.

EU environment chapter, Kyoto to strengthen Turkey’s hand

As regards the opening of the environment chapter in EU accession talks and the signing of the Kyoto protocol, the minister said these developments will further strengthen Turkey’s hand in the global arena while raising the country’s environmental standards. “We opened the environment chapter not only because the EU demanded it but also because we expected to raise the standards in this field in Turkey. This was a key development in Turkey’s bid to enter the union, and Kyoto shares similar importance,” he explained. Turkey opened the chapter in December 2009.

Regarding the signing of the Kyoto protocol, the UN-led pact to combat global warming, Ero?lu said the government does not regret having signed the protocol since it helped Turkey to escape intense pressure from both the EU and international environmental organizations. The Turkish Parliament approved its membership of the Kyoto Protocol in February 2009. “The more we delayed signing the protocol the more our efforts in combating global warming came under suspicion,” the minister argued, adding that some energy projects along with wastewater treatment plants are already under way.

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